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Whooping cough toxins shipped to China by U. Florida student leader: report

Leads group that protested Florida’s crackdown on Chinese Communist Party influence

The leader of a Chinese student organization is facing federal charges for her alleged role in shipping whooping cough toxins and illegal drugs back to China.

Nongnong “Leticia” Zheng and others “have been implicated in an illegal, multi-million dollar scheme investigated by the Justice Department to fraudulently buy thousands of biochemical samples of dangerous drugs and toxins,” according to the Associated Press.

The toxins included “purified, non-contagious proteins of the cholera toxin and pertussis toxin, which causes whooping cough.”

The AP reported other drugs in “small amounts” were “smuggled to China in the scheme.”

These include “fentanyl, morphine, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, codeine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, acetylmorphine and methadone.”

The suspects had the substances “delivered to a campus laboratory then illicitly shipped to China over seven years,” the AP reported, based on its review of court documents.

“Among the students tied to the scheme was [Zheng] the president of UF’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association,” the AP reported.

“The group openly protested a Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year that limits universities from recruiting students and faculty from China — and bans employing such students from working in academic labs without special permission,” the AP reported.

That bill was aimed at “counteract[ing] the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida,” which the governor called the “greatest geopolitical threat,” as previously reported by The Fix.

A University of Florida professor is also suing the state. He says the law hurts his ability to hire Chinese students to work in his lab. The legislation, “adds to a trend of unfounded and discredited fearmongering against people from China,” according to the lawsuit.

Zheng (pictured) told the AP “she was deceived and victimized by the scheme’s organizers, who she said solicited help finding paid interns from the Chinese student organization.”

During the bill signing last year, Gov. DeSantis said he wanted to “crack down on Communist China.”

“I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents, to stop sensitive digital data from being stored in China, and to stop CCP influence in our education system from grade school to grad school.”

MORE: Chinese influence on higher ed remains concern of Congress

IMAGE: Leticia Zheng/LinkedIn

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